Despite the sophisticated work done by many of the software companies in the San Jose and Silicon Valley area, they have the same retaliation issues that arise in other industries. One typical kind of unlawful retaliation is when an employee raises concerns about being improperly classified as a contractor or not being paid overtime, or not being provided proper meal and rest breaks. Many managers in these sophisticated companies feel that they can do no wrong and they certainly don't appreciate when their employees are being "insubordinate" by complaining about wage laws violations. That's when the write-ups, the negative performance evaluations, the performance improvement plans and the micromanaging begins. It's easy to find faults in a software engineer or developer's work or to make it look like he/she is not meeting deadlines/expectations in order to cover up the retaliatory motive for termination.
Unfortunately, I am yet to see a performance improvement plan (PIP) that does not end up in termination. Even though some of these plans sounds like they believe that the employee will improve and will continue to be part of his/her team at a company, usually it's just a formality before "final warning" and notice of termination.
Proving a retaliation claim in court is not easy, but such elements as timing of events, history of performance and statements/testimony of co-workers and/or previous managers prove to be very helpful, if not critical, in winning those kinds of claims or settling them successfully in and out of c
One of the common mistakes that aggrieved employees make prior to being terminated when they feel that they are being retaliated against, is that they lose their temper when they feel that their rights are being violated, which hurts them and often makes their potential legal claims much weaker. Imagine you request a medical time off under FMLA, your manager mistakenly believes that you are not entitled to it because somehow he/she determined that your medical condition is not serious enough to qualify or even worse - the employer thinks you are faking it. You then give your that manager a peace of your mind, telling them that they are not good and they are incompetent. Perhaps you raise your voice and you also use some inappropriate language. At the same time, you go to his/her superior and complain about denial of your rights. You might even send a nasty e-mail or two on top, to other managers to tell them how unhappy you are about your bosses ignorance. These actions give your employer an independent, and perfectly legal reason to terminate you - being rude, verbally violent and insubordination.
Instead, you should always act like a "politician" if you will. You should never lose your cool or be rude or inappropriate with your boss. Most of the times, employee's right are violated not on person but because the employer simply doesn't know better or because the company has to deal with certain financial or productivity pressures that push them in the wrong directly legally. This is not to justify their actions but to make you realize that there is absolutely no point and no benefit in raising your voice or becoming aggressive toward your employer.
Further, when you remain civil at all times, and the employer does violate the law by discriminating or retaliating against you, your potential legal case will be much stronger, as the employer will not have the "insubordination" excuse when demoting, suspending or terminating your employment.